Whether they say it in English or Irish, the word "home" carries talismanic energy that means so much more than the simple word itself can contain.
It means family, landscape, history, first love, ambition, heart, hope, loss. It means more than that too.
What the era of the Celtic Tiger, the Great Recession and this fretful Pandemic age is teaching us is how enduring the word is, even in darkest of times.
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When the coronavirus struck in March the first question Irish people living overseas asked each other was are you going “home” to ride it out. Home meant Ireland, the county you hailed from, the town in which your family lives, the mothership.
Many did return, others sheltered in place, as the lockdown gripped and life was upended. As the lockdown continued what had seemed important was revealed to be often rather insignificant. There's nothing like a battle of life and death to reveal to you what's truly important.
The governments in the USA and Ireland understood that they had to step up, health services understood the same, grants were made available, unemployment assistance was increased for the suddenly out of work, a raft of sensible bills and responses were made to help the public ride out the storm.
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In Ireland, the problem of homelessness, a growing problem of the property development years there, was miraculously solved. Knowing that the homeless could become vectors in the spread, the government addressed themselves with greater urgency to caring for their most vulnerable citizens, the better to care for all of their citizens because if Covid-19 has taught us anything, its thats everything (and everyone) connects.
Ireland is always re-learning that lesson. The tension between the Irish social model (roughly, community) and capitalism (every man for himself) is never resolved. Nor is the Irish model of the law, which is biting restrictions for you and unrestricted mobility for me.
In recent decades the property developer class have been setting the political agenda without reference to the social one, with predictably ruinous results.
“Economic growth accompanied by worsening social outcomes is not success,” the Prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern said recently. “It is failure.” The Irish Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien needs to put that in a sampler above his desk.
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What a marvelously lucid summation of the Irish problem. It's taken us far too long to understand how much we are failing each other when it comes to the most basic right of all: shelter, peace.
Because the property markets have been chipping away not just at the Irish market but the Irish social compact, at our idea of who we are and what we stand for, at our sense of ourselves as a broad community with a history and a point of view.
This week the current Irish housing minister O’Brien plans to bring forward proposals to set out a new affordable housing scheme that couples making at least $106, 478 dollars a year will qualify for.
So the question is, this is affordable housing for who exactly? Doctors? Ministers?
Allowing the market to set the terms, rather than the government, proves the current government have learned nothing from the last two decades. And they can be confidently relied on to deliver nothing for the people most in need, the majority of their own electorate.
I think, given this knuckle-headed approach, our ministers will experience what it's like to look at a building (parliament) they will not be able to enter themselves soon.
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